New Thing #164: No More Grandparents

FarengaToday is my grandmother's funeral. I hate to get too personal here, but, well, I kind of figured that doing something like this every day might result in an occasional dose of bad news mixed in with the good.

And this one's kind of a bummer.

My grandmother passed away this week - the last of my four grandparents to die.

And I kind of feel like that's one of life's mile posts.

Let me stress to you here, this is far from a tragedy. Grandma was 97 years old, and I know that I've been lucky enough to know each of my grandparents for a good part of my life. I remember grade school friends who didn't know their grandparents at all.

And I'm not entirely comfortable putting a picture of my family up here. If you're close enough to know me on Facebook, you can see more personal pictures there. This here is a picture of the funeral home in my neighborhood where wake services were held - Farenga's. (Quick side note - for a few years Farenga's was the sponsor of my Little League baseball team. This led to lots of little kid jokes. "We're going to kill you!" was one. We were a good team. One year we went 16-0 and then lost in the playoffs. It was sad. Lots of sadness associated with Farenga's, I guess. But that's another story for another day.)

Anyway, back to grandparents. My mom's dad passed away in 1985. That was my first exposure to death. A friend was supposed to come over my house that day - her mom met her at the door to school and kind of swooped her away. That was weird. Then my dad was waiting by the playground to pick us up. Also weird - he never picked us up - he was always working at that time. And, he had toys for us. Little transformer knock-off toys. That was a weird day. Didn't quite get death at that point,though.

My dad's dad died in 1994. That was much more real - I was in high school. For some reason dates really resonated with me at that point in my life - October 14, 1994. It was a little more than a year-and-a-half after my dad's uncle died - January 3, 1993. (I remember we got the phone call at halftime of the Bills-Oilers 35-3 comeback game, and the Oilers collapsed in that second half. I was rooting for the Oilers. But you probably already guessed that.) That was a rough stretch. In 1995 our dog died. For someone like me unaccustomed to death, that was a lot of dying in a short period of time.

My grandmothers lived for another decade and two decades, respectively. There were long, slow declines in health. One's memory slipped pretty quickly (my inspiration for making sure I keep honing my brain with crossword puzzles and other activities), the other stayed pretty sharp for a good long time.

I don't know if this is a weird thing or not - maybe other people do it too...but hardly a day goes by when I don't think about people I love dying. I don't know why I do it - it's just something that pops into my mind every so often.

What I've found, though, is that whatever age, whatever mental exercise I've done to try to prepare myself for death, it doesn't make it any easier to deal with.

97 is a good long life. It's hard to feel too sad about someone living to that age. I mentioned earlier that some people never know their grandparents. One of my greatest happinesses is that my daughters got to meet and spend time with their great-grandmother. My oldest daughter is at an age where she can pretty well appreciate that. (From Great-Grandma's point of view, she had this experience times  12.)

But on the other hand - it's hard to adjust to being without something you've had your entire life. Grandma was our leader - she was always the top of the chain. We've had her around for all of our lives. And now we won't.

And, 97 or not, that's what makes this so hard.